Jim McGee – construction worker, civic activist, American patriot

 

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Jimmy McGee, July 26 1937-January 12, 2017

My long time friend, business partner, fellow prairie builder, community leader, humanitarian, friend to all men – a man who I considered my spiritual brother, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away from this Earth a week ago Thursday. Jim and I worked together nearly every day for almost fifteen years.

Jim was a construction master, skilled in so many fields of construction – different types of hands-on, lobor-focused work. But he had a brilliant mind and a work ethic like no other person I’ve known – together Jim and I built a business. We built many different gardens and prairies all over the central Gulf south – in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

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new digging shovels, 2011, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

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At Mark Y Jenkins Nursery, Amite, Louisiana

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November 2010, bagging and weighing prairie seed at Ashe Seed Extractory facility, U.S. Forest Service, De Soto National Forest, Wiggins, Mississippi

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Jim at Buttercup Flats, U.S. Forest Service, De Stoto National Forest, Wiggins, Mississippi

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Jim was one of eleven children, three brothers and seven sisters, born in Williamsburg/Collins, Covington County, Mississippi, in the grips of the Great Depression, to the late D.C and Dora McGee, cotton-subsistence share-cropper farmers – a very hard working family – salt of the Earth people. Jim, as soon as he could, as soon as he was old enough, left home, to get away from cotton farming, work he said was difficult and often, not very prosperous –  a type of work he didn’t particularly like.

Jim worked in heavy construction work as a supervisor for 30 plus years before he and I met.

I was honored to be asked by Jim’s wife of 57 years, Mrs. Annie Lee McGee, to be one of three, to speak about Jim at his funeral ceremony at the church he worked so hard for –  for so many years, a church community he loved so much.

Never have I seen such a beautiful ceremony that included four ministers who delivered very emotional, moving sermons, two musical solos by two extraordinarily talented soloists, and the most uplifting music from the church’s full Gospel choir that nearly lifted  the church house off its foundation – very touching indeed – it was.

Saturday, hundreds of friends and relatives filled to capacity, the huge Hart’s Chapel Baptist Church, in the old railroad town of Derby, Mississippi to pay homage to Jim.

 

This, below, is my attempt at a eulogy for Jim. An ode to Jimmy McGee.

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Jim McGee was my buddy. He was my best friend. I loved him like a brother.

Jim was one of the hardest working people I have known. Jim had what is called a strong work ethic. When there was a job to do, you could could bet the farm that Jim was going to figure out a way get it done. Give him the toughest challenge and he would accept it with joy.

But although his and our relationship was often based on getting together to work, it was much more than that. We took care of one another like brothers do.

Jim had a kind and caring, sweet soul. He had a heart of gold and wasn’t afraid to show it. He had great compassion for his fellow man.

In fifteen years that I knew him, I never saw Jim mad or upset.

Jim loved his church. He loved his God. And he loved Mrs. Annie and their sweet family so much.

Jim loved his country. He loved his farm. He loved living in America and being an American. He was a true American in every sense of the word. Jimmy McGee was one of my American heroes.

Jim was from a time, an era, that for me, was a connection to the past. Some of the stories he told me through the years were so important – ones that shed light on who he was and what used to be, what life used to be like back in the day, from his unique and optimistic perspective.

When Jim and I worked, or if we were just talking on the phone, we would laugh and carry on. We had a good time together.

When I went through a tough time, a great loss in my life several years ago, Jim was there to be my friend. He was there to assure me that things would get better. He helped me through that rough patch in the road, just like good friends do.

Mrs. Annie told me not long ago that Jim and I were like two peas in a pod. I would agree. And am proud to say that that was true.

I am certain where Jimmy is today. He is no doubt, in a heavenly, peaceful world – reunited with his family – those that have gone on, before him. He has slipped the surly bonds of Earth – he has put out his hand to touch the face of God.

I will miss him so much but I know we will meet again, in due time.

I am certain of that.
God bless Jim. And God Bless Mrs Annie, and all of the McGee Family.

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On a lighter note…….

Make America a Bee Meadow Again!!!

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check out a just burned Meridian bee meadow, above

Bee hives are the perfect pairing for a prairie. The two benefit from being in close proximity with one another. Just ask my friend Gail, in Meridian, Mississippi. She and her super fly husband Richard will testify about how good their homemade honey tastes on her homemade granola, combined with a little bit of Greek yogurt. mmmmm….That there’s livin’, folks!

Life s good when you can burn a prairie patch in your back forty and enjoy the flars’ and stuff and the bees and butterflies that are a-flutterin’ whilst your eatin’ your granola yogurt. Wonder what’s better’n that?

Can I get an AMEN?!!!

Only in a Merca, ya’ll!

Actually, I understand that the word meadow comes from the root word mead, which is a beer made from honey – honey from wildflower pollen and stuff. Gotta taste me some of that mead beer one day.

Gail’s garden is a collection of really cool native wildflowers and grasses.

It ain’t gotta be big to be a bee meadow, ya’ll. But isn’t bigger always better?

I ‘been trying to convince my middle sister, Niki, who lives in one of those fancy gated communities (with cool codes at the front gate), that she and her hubby need to git’ her one of these here prairie meadows. I tell her the neighbors won’t mind a bit – probably – when she and hubby burn the “back forty”.

My Meridian bud’s garden is only 20 by 50 feet in size. She collected seed in paper bags and since she’s an s’pert horticulturist type person, she grew a bunch of plugs, too and low and behold — voila!!! – five years later she gets a cool full-burn like you see in the pic.

Nice.

Gail tells me it was the best burn she’s had yet. It takes some time to get a prairie up to speed by way of seed.

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More far’

Speaking of burnt prairie meadows, I got a chance between storms to do a burn here at the Ponderosa yesterday.

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click to enlarge the pano pic of the toasty Ponderosa pyre yesterday.

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Pineville prairie project’s initial prescribed fire

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The Grant residence, situated on a large imposing hilltop, near Pineville, Louisiana, in Rapides Parish is graced with a juvenile-stage three acre prairie garden.  Local landscape architect Tony Tradewell coordinated and helped design it. Tony and the Grants worked on the ideas of placement and scale of the design while utilizing my services as advisor for construction and as the seed source, for planting, etc.

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Jim Foret seeds Cade Farm 3-acre Cajun Prairie and Allen Parish Welcome Center with cool local-ecotype seed

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Professor Jim (also known as Possum) Foret of University of Louisiana at Lafayette, with magical seed, above, at the Allen Parish Visitor’s Welcome Center prairie planting “event”

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native saline prairies, part of our Loosiana’ natural area landscape

dug up some old photos of a Charles Allen field trip from summer of 1999 a while back, of a cool Saline prairie in Kisatchie National forest.

amazing flora “grazed” by good people, in photos, below

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these saline prairie areas are where the native Americans and the early settlers got their salt.

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Blue Swamp Creek Nature Trail Park, Covington — Patterns, Pools, and Textures

winter landscapes of grasses

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feets don’t fail me now….

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hydrology changes patterns and textural effects in the winter landscape of BSC Nature Trail, a project initiated by the concerned citizens of the non-profit Keep Covington Beautiful, City of Covington, St. Tammany Parish, La. Bluestem and Beaked Panicum in foreground, contrast with the course textured, darker colored Dicanthelium scabrusculum.

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pools, left from logging many years ago, hold water and nurture nice stands of the carnivorous Yellow Bladder Wort colonies and Dicanthelium scabrusculum

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in the wetland storm water retention area, wet tolerant grasses thrive, above

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the wetland retention area in panorama

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the carnivorous Pitcher Plant area, above and below, all photos of BSC Nature Trail taken last week

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two discovery links, below

http://proof.nationalgeographic.com/2015/10/15/digging-deep-reveals-the-intricate-world-of-roots/

http://www.tallgrassprairiecenter.org/prairie-roots-project

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